Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Tulip stitch using two threads of stranded cotton

New week, new technique: this time it's blackwork. 

Apparently it originated in Tudor times (frequently used to decorate collars and cuffs) but the technique the RSN teaches has evolved considerably.  It now includes lots of complex patterns and the use of different stitches and threads to vary light and shade.  It is stitched on linen, although any evenweave fabric would work (these samples are on Dublin linen with 25 threads per inch).
Interlocking Ys using two threads of stranded cotton

    Tulip stitch shading

Tulip stitch here is done with threads of varying thickness: starting at the left one strand of coton à broder, then one strand of stranded cotton and finally one strand of Gutterman's machine sewing thread.  The tricky part is blending the varying weights of stitches to avoid seeing a line where the threads change.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Trellis stitch with French knots

For the last two weeks, I've been learning the basics of Crewel work.  It is named for the wool it is stitched in (Crewel wool) which is a 2-ply wool, and for stitching to be properly considered Crewel, it should be stitched on linen. 

Trellis stitch with satin stitch fill

I'd always thought that it was quite a chunky style of stitching, but as I am now fully aware, it's quite the opposite: some of the stitches are meant to be 2 or 3 mm long.  This presents quite a challenge when photographing: stitches which have been given the OK by my tutor, when photographed and blown up on screen look much less impressive.
Raised chain band

Guess it's back to the embroidery frame for some more practice.

Thursday, 13 October 2011


Flowing of Dawn by Soon Yul Kang

These two images are from an exhibition by the British Tapestry Group at Orleans Gallery in Twickenham.  There were some beautiful woven pieces there, in a variety of styles, but I was blown away by the subtlety and skill in these two works especially.

Blue on Blue by Hillu Liebelt

Please excuse the reflection in the image above - it was behind glass and therefore tricky to photograph., but the colours were so evocative, I had to try.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Polos and pompoms

For the last two weeks I've been learning canvaswork (at the RSN, of which I'm sure I'll post more in the future, but I will try to limit mentions of how amazing it is to study in a palace).

I've learnt loads already, both technically but also about what constitutes canvaswork: cross stitch, Bargello,  and what I would have called tapestry (amongst other names/styles).  Apparently tapestry is a misnomer which stems from the 17th century when canvaswork hangings were made in imitation of the expensive tapestries which adorned palaces and country estates - they were meant to look like tapestries and the name persists, particularly in the expensive kits sold in stately home gift shops.

This is my first finished piece - it's tiny as it's a birthday card, the stitched section measures just 5cm square.  The stitches are Jessica stitch (they are the stitches which look sort of like polo mints around the Shisha mirrors), French knots (both within and between the polo mints) and in the very centre, velvet stitch (also known as plush work).  Velvet stitch is the most tactile stitch I've ever come across - even done in stranded cotton, it feels super soft and luxurious, and reminds me of making pompoms at home as a kid.  Only now I get to make them in a palace ...